Does Google+ hate women?

Ok, that title is way over the top to get your attention.* BUT.banned from google
I do want to talk about what the “no pseudonyms” policy adopted at G+ means for women, LGBT folk, and civil servants.

There are many, many resources that can explain to Google why adopting this policy is a stupid idea (aside from the obvious business advantage of not alienating early adopters and potential G+ evangelists). One of the best can be found at the Geek Feminism Wiki:

The cost to these people {of denying pseudonym use} can be vast, including:

  • harassment, both online and offline
  • discrimination in employment, provision of services, etc.
  • actual physical danger of bullying, hate crime, etc.
  • arrest, imprisonment, or execution in some jurisdictions
  • economic harm such as job loss, loss of professional reputation, etc.
  • social costs of not being able to interact with friends and colleagues

That page goes on to list, in detail, the various ways that these groups can be harmed.   We know that women experience 25 TIMES the amount of harassment online that men do.  We know that 50% of LGBT teens are bullied online, and many of them consider–or commit–suicide.  We know that women are stalked and killed by ex-lovers. We know that LGBT folk are the victims of hate crimes.

Basically, we know that some people are assholes online, and like to target others and make their lives hell. They will do this using their real names; they do this with fake identities.   It’s about BEHAVIOR, not about names.  If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault for not holding people–whatever name they go by–accountable for their behavior.  Online behavior doesn’t have to be polite or full of everyone agreeing with each other. Conversations just need to not be bigoted, hateful, or destructive.

If you agree that allowing pseudonyms online is important, please visit this petition and sign. It goes directly to Google.

My personal take:

I was banned from Google+ after happily using it for about a week, because I used my pseudonym as my name.  I’m not the only one–a bunch of other bloggers, all of whom have reasons to want to not reaveal their real names, or who, like Lady Gaga, have an alternative name that they are known by.  I have both professional and personal reasons to want to use my pseudonym Bug Girl online.

I can get my profile re-activated by giving Google my real name, and allowing it to be publicly linked with my profile.  But I’m not going to choose to out myself just because some giant world-ruling corporation demands it.   I have been Bug Girl online since at least 1997; as a blogger since 2005.  I initially adopted a pseudonym because I had been the target of some white supremacist groups in the 90s, as well as experiencing stalking.

Later I discovered that I had become a high-enough level civil servant that I was actually PROHIBITED, by law, from having opinions online.  I controlled enough of the state budget that my activities online, if connected to my real name, could be seen as lobbying.  It looks like my current job in Connecticut is going to be bound by the same rules.

I also only feel free to talk about my disability (I have epilepsy) and my status as a rape survivor under this pseudonym. I don’t want my students, my employer, or my mom to find out these secrets about me from Google.

How concerned am I about keeping my IRL name separate from Bug Girl? I am going to be giving a talk at the Entomological Society of America National meeting under the pseudonym of Bug Girl.  When an academic passes up a chance to pad her vita, you know she’s serious about plausible deniability.

Google is targeting people based on how “real” sounding their names are. Had I chosen a name that sounded more plausible, I would probably still be able to use Google+.  I know at least 5 people who put in fake names that are still happily using the service.  It’s a rule that can’t be applied consistently, and it blocks me from participating in a lot of wonderful online conversations.  Google+ is a really great platform, and I liked it a lot before I was evicted.

Google’s adopted a policy that puts people at risk and silences their voices in this new online forum.  Not because we have misbehaved, but because our privacy is important and we won’t give it up.  Google is a company that profits by serving you advertising on YouTube videos where  my friends are threatened with rape and death.  It is beyond hypocrisy for them to say they are concerned about online civility.

I have so many, many wonderful friends online as Bug Girl. I think I could go to just about any town in the world and find someone fun to have a conversation with that knows me as Bug.  I am constantly humbled by how kind and generous people online can be, and the realness of virtual communities.   Please sign the petition and help me share that with others.

(Oh, and make sure to click the Google+ button below! :)   )

Additional links:

*EDITED 7/24 TO ADD: People are getting hung up on the title of this post. It was a deliberately provocative title, but apparently a little too provocative. I have slightly altered it.  I drew a complete blank that afternoon when floundering for a title that would convey that Google had, once again, implemented a policy that would harm women and LGBT folks.